Nagpurians visit ground zero of ‘Battle of Sitabuldi’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 27 Nov 2017 09:43:09


By Rajendra Diwe,

Nagpur city was not established in 1702 by Gond King Bakth Buland Shaha but its existence could be traced back 3,000 years to 8th century BC, said Dr Chandrashekhar Gupta while speaking on ‘Battle of Sitabuldi’ (26-11-1817) at Mirashi Hall of Vidarbha Sanshodhan Mandal, on Sunday. Dr Madan Kulkarni, President of Vidarbha Sanshodhan Mandal presided over. Shrimant Jaisingh Raje Bhonsale, a representative of Bhonsala Dynasty also shared the dais.



Dr Gupta illustrated various chronological evidences from different archeological excavations and historical records to establish the existence of Nagpur city even before 1702. Dr Gupta explained in brief the historical reason of battle between Bhonsale and British. He said, Maratha leader Raghoji Bhonsale of Vidarbha established himself at Nagpur in 1743. He also conquered territories of Deogarh, Chanda and Chhattisgarh by 1751. After Raghoji’s death in 1755, his son and successor Janoji acknowledged the effective supremacy of the Maratha Peshwa of Pune in 1769. Janoji's successor Mudhoji-I came to power in 1785 and bought Mandla and the upper Narmada valley from the Peshwa between 1796 and 1798, after which Raghoji II acquired Hoshangabad, the larger part of Saugor and Damoh. Under Raghoji II, Nagpur covered what is now the east of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, Dr Gupta added.


In 1803 Raghoji II joined the Peshwas against the British in the Second Anglo-Maratha War. The British prevailed, and Raghoji was forced to cede Cuttack, Sambalpur, and part of Berar. After Raghoji II’s death in 1816, his son Parsaji was deposed and allegedly murdered by Mudhoji II. Despite the fact that he had entered into a treaty with the British in the same year, Mudhoji joined the Peshwa in the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1817 against the British, but was forced to cede the rest of Berar to the Nizam of Hyderabad, and parts of Saugor and Damoh, Mandla, Betul, Seoni and the Narmada valley to the British after suffering a defeat at Sitabuldi in modern-day Nagpur city.

Dr Gupta also discussed the special Nagpur style of paintings, drawings and arts. Dr Sheshshayan Deshmukh, expressed a concern over how, people had destroyed the important inscriptions at Thanegaon and Bazargaon because of their ignorance. He also mentioned, the only manuscript of Dnyaneshwari which has colourful pictures and documented evidence of Nagpur style of paintings and art was displaced from city and preserved in museum in Virginia. He emphasised the need to preserve the evidences of rich cultural heritage of India. Shrimant Jaisingh Raje Bhonsale appreciated the efforts of Mandal to revisit the history of Nagpur city. Dr Rajendra Watane, Secretary of Vidarbha Sanshodhan Mandal, conducted the proceedings.




‘Bhonsala used rockets against British Army’


Battle could not be fought without weapons. Therefore, from ancient times, number of weapons were used on battle fields. The battle between Bhonsala and British fought on November 26, 1817 was unique in many ways. For the first time, Bhonsala had used rockets against British, said Brig (Retd) Sunil Gaopande.

Gaopande was explaining about different guns, pistols, weapons used during Sitabuldi battle. The armaments are preserved in Central Museum. As a part of ‘Vaarsa Darshan’ a tour to central museum was conducted.


Brig Gaopande explained in details about the guns, cannon, pistols, riffle and rockets used by Bhonsala army during the war. In those days, many kingdoms in India were using guns, pistols or rifles manufactured in France or Germany. British as well as Maratha Empire were using weapons from Germany and France. It was Tipu who first realized the full potential of rockets as weapons both in his mind and on the field and used them to create havoc in the East Indian Company lines. Thus, all the rockets in the world today can be traced to those used during the wars in Mysore, he added.

Brig Gaopande demonstrated one of these rockets used in Sitabuldi battle. Resembling like Dand Patta, no one could even understand it as a rocket. Even in the central museum it is preserved as ‘Dandpatta.’
Such rocket belongs to Mysorean rockets, the first iron-cased rockets successfully deployed for military use. Hyder Ali, the 18th century ruler of Mysore, and his son and successor Tipu Sultan used them effectively against the British East India Company during the 1780s and 1790s, he added.

After the fall of Srirangapattana in 1799, the British army found 600 launchers, 700 serviceable rockets and 9,000 empty rockets at Tipu’s fort. Many of these were sent to the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich where two specimens are still preserved and Central museum has two specimens, Brig Gaopande stated.

These rockets have iron tubes that would allow for great compression of the filled gunpowder and consequently, greater range (nearly 2 km). Tipu Sultan fastened them to swords or bamboo poles to provide stability, that woul, in turn, lead to better accuracy, he added.
Dr Virag Sontakke, curator of Central Museum was felicitated on this occasion.



Scene of Sitabuldi Battle recreated

Brig Sunil Gaopande through lively narration recreated a scene of Sitabuldi Battle. The participants felt as if they were attending the battle field. The visit to Sitabuldi fort on Sunday was thrilling one. Through the sketches and pictures of battle field available at Sitabuldi, Brig Gaopande explained the entire hillock where the battle was fought. Brig Gaopande took the participants to each and every spot in fort and portrayed the entire event through his commentary. The war on first day i.e. November 26, 1817 was won by Bhonsala army by killing 14 officers and 367 soldiers of British army.

On the next day, British deployed additional soldiers and officers. Because of their diplomacy, Bhonsala lost the war on second day i.e. on November 27, 1817. Finally, British were successful in acquiring the larger peninsular area of India which was under Maratha Empire, he said. Subhedar Virendra Singh of 118 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) Grenadiers, Fort Sitabuldi, was felicitated on this occasion.